Horizontal directional drilling

Horizontal Directional Drilling
Horizontal Directional Drilling

Horizontal Directional Drilling is being hailed be the most cost effective way of rehabilitating aging water supply pipelines as well as rolling out new projects in Sub Saharan Africa. According to Scott Fisher the Sales Manager at Barbco in the United States, trenchless products in general should be embraced anywhere in the world as they limit harm to the surface environment and allow for ways to install utility lines that is cost effective.

It is a worrying trend that critical infrastructure that is key to Africa’s development is falling apart faster than it is being rehabilitated. Fortunately, the arrival of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) has emerged as the perfect solution to the challenge. “The trenchless industry in the USA is a very key part of infrastructure sustainability and would only benefit African countries as well,” adds Mr. Fisher.


Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) has proved handy when applied in greenfield water supply projects too. Fascinatingly, contractors can trench across a river or a road with minimal disruption to the ecosystem.

HDD has come to the fore as legislations on environmental preservation demands compliance, and implementation costs of Greenfield projects keep on rising. Mr. Fisher further explains that, HDD and Trenchless products are a more economical and environmental safe solutions making them the ideal equipment for greenfield projects.

Mr. Frank Beerthuis the Managing Director of Vermeer Equipment, a Supplier and distributor of the Vermeer product range throughout sub-Saharan Africa further adds that, the HDD technology is an excellent work method for crossings of roads, railways, water canals and rivers or when installation work needs to be done in urban areas. Since it is a no-dig or no-trench method there is no disruption of road surfaces and no disruption of traffic. Since there is no open excavation of trenches it is also a quicker and more environmental friendly method.

“The HDD technology was first introduced in South Africa and it is now an accepted methodology and most utilities such as water pipes, gas and oil pipelines, sewerage pipes, electricity and fiber cables are being installed by means of horizontal directional drilling technologies,” he affirms.

Also Read:Why Africa needs Water Metering

More efficient in infrastructure rehabilitation

It’s encouraging to hear from specialists that new HDD products are reducing the margin for error, ensuring better cost efficiency and environmentally conscious execution. This development could have not come at a better time, with a huge backlog in the development and rehabilitation of infrastructure for water, supply telecommunications, electrical installations and transport .

In an interview with a South African specialist in HDD who is involved in water supply infrastructure rehabilitation projects in most Sub Saharan countries, he hailed the ability of Horizontal directional drilling to reline existing pipelines without having to dig trenches to reach the pipe.

“In contrast, the conventional method of rehabilitating pipes has been to dig up and replace. This process turns out to be both complex and expensive as pipelines which were built as far back as 40 years ago run below buildings. In these days of economic recession, this is a luxury that most African countries can ill afford,” he adds.

The specialist also added that he valued the technology’s ‘green’ benefit. “In particular, they highlighted the fact that no digging is involved and there is no environmental footprint,” he affirms.

With regards to refurbishing corroded pipes, there is demand for pipe replacement technology that minimizes the need to disrupt infrastructure, Construction Review is informed.  One of the most intriguing technologies that have taken the lead is the lining of pipes with a tight-fit high-density polyethylene liner that can be applied up to 1 km at a time called Swagelining. Of note, through the innovation, pressured and non pressured pipelines are replaced quickly and cost effectively.